POLITICS: PennAve

Lindsey Graham: Impeachment is on the table if Obama releases more detainees

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Politics,Barack Obama,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Guantanamo Bay,Lindsey Graham,Bowe Bergdahl,Impeachment

Sen. Lindsey Graham is so furious over the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders that he is warning of a GOP impeachment push if President Obama tries to release any other prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

The South Carolina Republican, a prominent member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a military lawyer, has long supported the idea of shuttering the island prison and at one point a few years ago even served as Obama's point man in Congress for the efforts.

Those negotiations have long since stalled, and Graham this week became one of the fiercest critics of the president's handling of the Bergdahl swap.

“The likelihood of Americans being kidnapped in the future by terrorist organizations to retrieve some of their people held in captivity has gone through the roof,” Graham told reporters Wednesday.

Graham said he has long been open to many of the Obama administration's ideas to help close Gitmo, including opening a new prison on U.S. soil, but now says he has lost trust in the administration and there should be a “time-out” on all detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

“I don't mind opening a new jail up – I just don't want to empty this one,” he told the Washington Examiner on his way to a closed-door administration briefing on the Bergdahl matter. “It seems to me that they don't have a desire to continue to hold these guys under the law of war. I'm all for moving the jail to another location as long as you don't let everybody go.”

Earlier in the day, Graham said told The Hill newspaper that like-minded Republicans may call for impeachment if Obama doesn't stop transferring detainees from Guantanamo.

"It's going to be impossible for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without a huge backlash," he said. "There will be people on our side calling for his impeachment if he did that."

Graham didn't use the word impeachment during his brief interview with the Washington Examiner. Instead he seemed content to throw up road blocks to any new detainee transfers and wait out the Obama presidency.

“You can keep clamping down restrictions and wait until he leaves,” Graham said when asked what he could do to stop the president from releasing more prisoners.

The Obama administration has been working with the Yemeni government to try to build a secure rehabilitation center for terrorism suspects - a move seen as a key step to be able to close Gitmo. Fifty-five of the 149 prisoners who remain at Gitmo are Yemenis who have been cleared for release.

The center was expected to take other detainees cleared for release as well, while others considered too dangerous, such as the five Taliban leaders released in exchange for Bergdahl, were expected to be transferred to a high-security prison in the United States.

Graham said he was open to the idea of the Yemeni rehab center but changed his mind this week after the Bergdahl exchange. He now says he will fight any administration attempt to fund its creation.

“That was an idea I was open to but now I just don't trust anybody, and Yemen has deteriorated too dramatically in terms of security – they had a major prison break there,” he said.

“Now is a time for a time-out,” he continued. “Terrorist groups are getting much more lethal, they are growing. We don't need to take the starters who have been on the injured reserve list and put them back in the game.”

Graham, the lead author of the military commissions law, has vacillated between vehemently criticizing Obama's detainee policies and trying to work with him on them. But some political observers say he is stepping up the ferocity of his assault this week in part to drum up more votes in South Carolina's Tuesday primary.

Graham is well ahead of any of the six challengers he is facing, but a new Clemson University poll found that he just shy of the voter support he needs to avoid a run-off.

The survey found that Graham has the support of 49 percent of frequent Republican voters, but will need 50 percent to avoid a run-off. State Sen. Lee Bright Roebuck is Graham's closest challenger, earning 9 percent of voter support. Still, the pack of challengers managed to attract a total of 26 percent.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is usually in sync with Graham on terrorism-related issues, differed on whether the Bergdahl controversy should have any impact on efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

"I never wanted to release these people -- I wanted them transferred -- so this really has no connection to whether Gitmo stays open or closed," he said.

McCain also still seemed open to supporting the creation of a rehab center in Yemen and the creation of new detainee prison facility in the United States. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, has identified a facility in Illinois that could house detainees deemed too dangerous to release or repatriate.

"We want them to return to Yemen but we need a situation where they can be safely taken to it," he said. "There are people in Guantanamo like these five who were deemed not releasable so therefore they would have to come to the United States of America."

"So we're getting convoluted about closing Gitmo," he added.

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